Hudson River School 1825 – 1875

American group of landscape painters active in the mid-19th century It was a loosely organized group, based in New York City The name is somewhat misleading, particularly in its implied geographical limitation; the Hudson River Valley, from New York to the Catskill Mountains and beyond, was the symbolic and actual centre of the school but was not the only area visited and painted by these artists Neither was this a school in the strictest sense of the word, because it was not centred in a specific academy or studio of an individual artist nor based on consistently espoused principles The term was in general use from the late 1870s but seems not to have been employed during the 1850s and 1860s, the most important years of the school’s activities It was initially used pejoratively by younger artists and critics who considered the earlier landscape painters hopelessly old-fashioned and insular in training and outlook Nevertheless, the name gradually gained currency and is accepted by most historians

The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains; eventually works by the second generation of artists associated with the school expanded to include other locales in New England, the Maritimes, the American West, and South America

[pt_view id=”c141735a5m”]

Neither the originator of the term Hudson River School nor its first published use has been fixed with certainty The term is thought to have originated with the New York Tribune art critic Clarence Cook or the landscape painter Homer Dodge Martin As originally used, the term was meant disparagingly, as the work so labeled had gone out of favor after the plein-air Barbizon School had come into vogue among American patrons and collectors

Hudson River School paintings reflect three themes of America in the 19th century: discovery, exploration, and settlement The paintings also depict the American landscape as a pastoral setting, where human beings and nature coexist peacefully Hudson River School landscapes are characterized by their realistic, detailed, and sometimes idealized portrayal of nature, often juxtaposing peaceful agriculture and the remaining wilderness, which was fast disappearing from the Hudson Valley just as it was coming to be appreciated for its qualities of ruggedness and sublimity In general, Hudson River School artists believed that nature in the form of the American landscape was an ineffable manifestation of God, though the artists varied in the depth of their religious conviction They took as their inspiration such European masters as Claude Lorrain, John Constable and J M W Turner Their reverence for America’s natural beauty was shared with contemporary American writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson Several painters were members of the Düsseldorf school of painting, others were educated by the German Paul Weber

While the elements of the paintings were rendered realistically, many of the scenes were composed as a synthesis of multiple scenes or natural images observed by the artists In gathering the visual data for their paintings, the artists would travel to extraordinary and extreme environments, which generally had conditions that would not permit extended painting at the site During these expeditions, the artists recorded sketches and memories, returning to their studios to paint the finished works later